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When I speak of my late mother, I gather she’s not

* ma mère regrettée,

even though she is

ma mère défunte.

What’s up with that? Is there some semantic nuance I’m missing that accounts for this particular difference in word order? Maybe regretté is one of those adjectives whose meanings differ according to which side of the noun they occupy?

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This one is an exception to one of the rules about the place of the adjective, usually all past particle taken as adjectives are supposed to go after the noun.

But the exceptions are

  • soi-disant
  • prétendu
  • ledit
  • damné
  • maudit
  • sacré
  • foutu
  • fichu
  • regretté (au sens de défunt)

And expressions:

  • dévoué
  • estimé
  • vénéré
  • etc.

Source: Grevisse

So you will say:

ma mère adorée

but

ma vénérée mère


This said, you will also find ma défunte mère and that even sounds more correct to me this way, to be honest.

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  • Some of the them are strictly before the noun (prétendu, soi-disant, ledit), but others ones can be on either side, sometimes with a change in meaning like the OP mentions. Café bouillu, café foutu... Gazon maudit... – jlliagre Jun 30 '20 at 21:45

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